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April 1954 E-876 

STATE PLANT BOARD United States Department of Agriculture 

Agricultural Research Service 
Entomology Research Branch 

By J. Wilcox and A. F. Howland 

The tomato russet mite ( Vasates lycopersici (Massee)) was first 
discovered in the United States in a hothouse at Modesto, Calif., in 
May 1940 (Keifer 4). About 500 acres of tomatoes were severely 
damaged in central California that year (Bailey and Keifer 1). By 1941 
the mite had spread over most of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. 
In 1942 it appeared almost simultaneously throughout southern California 
and caused serious damage in fields where control measures were not 
promptly applied. 

This mite has gradually spread over the rest of the country, but has 
caused alarm in the Eastern States only in the last 2 years. Its occur- 
rence in the United States, according to the Insect Pest Survey and 
Cooperative Economic Insect Report and other sources, is as follows: 
1940 California; 1943 Colorado; 1944 Arizona; 1946 Ohio; 1947 Utah; 
1948 Nevada and New York; 1949 Oklahoma; 1950 Texas; 1952 Illinois, 
Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; 1953 Delaware, 
Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, and Maryland. In 1952 it was also found in 
Ontario, Canada. 

The tomato russet mite is also a pest of tomatoes in Australia, New 
Zealand, Spain, Hawaii, Tasmania, and New Hebrides. In some of these 
places it has been known as the tomato mite (Morgan 10, Cottier and 
Taylor 2). It has been known by the scientific names Phyllocoptes 
lycopersici Masse (7) and Phyllocoptes destructor Keifer (4, 5), now 
recognized to be synonymous with Vasates lycopersici (Massee) 
(Lamb 6). 

Host Plants 

Tomatoes are the only cultivated plants seriously damaged by this 
pest. However, it also lives on petunia (Petunia hybrida), potato, 
nightshade ( Solanum nigrum and villosum), tomatillo ( Physalis ixocarpa ), 
and Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium and ferox) in California, and on 
popolo (Solanum nodiflorum) in Hawaii (Bailey and Keifer 1). 

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It is believed that the mite is at present so widely distributed in 
California on petunia, nightshade, and Jimsonweed that tomatoes can- 
not be safely grown in that State without the protection of insecticides. 
These native host plants live over winter in California and survive in 
protected locations even during periods of heavy frosts. Tomato fields 
cannot be isolated sufficiently to prevent infestation. It seems likely 
that the mites are spread by wind to tomato from these host plants. 
Tomato fields not treated with insecticides may not be seriously dam- 
aged every year, but they probably will be infested, and if the weather 
is favorable damage may occur every season. 


Sulfur dust is the standard remedy for the tomato russet mite. 
Experiments with various control methods have been reported by Bailey 
and Keifer (1), Hoerner (3), Michelbacher et al. (9), Wilcox and 
Elmore (12), and Wilcox and Howland (13). Recent laboratory tests 
(Tuft and Anderson 11) and field tests (Wilcox and Howland 14) indicate 
that a number of the new pesticides are effective. 

The authors have obtained good control with 2-percent parathion, 
2-percent EPN, 5-percent chlordane, 2.5-percent methyl parathion, 
and 20-percent toxaphene dusts. Limited tests indicate that these in- 
secticides are also effective in sprays. However, since sulfur is effec- 
tive and the other materials present greater hazards when used on 
tomatoes, none of them have been recommended for use against this 

Excellent control is obtained by dusting the plants with sulfur. Three 
applications are made 2 weeks apart, the first when the fruits of the 
main crop begin to set. A dust containing 50 percent of finely ground 
(325-mesh) dusting sulfur is used at 30 pounds per acre. It may be 
applied in mixtures that also contain 10 percent of either DDT or TDE 
for the control of the tomato fruitworm and other insects. A 25 -percent 
sulfur dust is effective if this schedule is carefully followed. A sulfur 
dust of any strength can usually be applied to transplants without injury, 
but greater strengths may injure small plants less than 6 inches high. 
The tomato russet mite has also been controlled by the addition of 10 
pounds of wettable sulfur per acre to sprays applied for control of other 
pests on tomatoes. 

Sulfur residues must be completely removed before the tomatoes 
are canned. In California sulfur dust was first used on tomatoes with 
considerable caution, as some canners prohibited its use and others 
only permitted 25-percent sulfur to be used. In 1943 the canning com- 
panies had evidence that in ordinary tin cans 1 to 2 p. p. m. of sulfur 
caused bluish iridescent streaks in the tin, at 5 p. p.m. bluish streaks 
were observed in the tin and hydrogen sulfide odor, and at 15 to 20 p.p. 

th a mor irogen 

sulf. : ■, the canners found I 

:.d 50-: 
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usset mite infestation if sulfu 
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.nount ength of su! I 

. ng in Califc ■ 

-ature Cited 

(1)1 , S. I ., -, H. H. 

tomato russet m: , <»ptes destri. 

Its present status. Jour. Ec on. Ent. 36(5): 70f>- 

(2) I , . id Taylor, G. G. 

1937. lit tomato mite ( Phylloi optes sp. ). 

gr. 55(1): 28-31. " . in Re\ . 1. Ent. 26( 1 

45-46. 1938. 

(A) Hoerner, .1. I.. 

; . The tomato russet mite in Colorado. Jour. 
37(4): 561 . 

(4) Keifer, H. H. 

• ; d stud . . lif. D< .29(3): 


. econon • . 

n. Ent. 

, K. I 

- a 

(9) Michelbacher, A. E., Middelkauff, W. W. , and Akeson, N. B. 
1948. Caterpillars destructive to tomato. Calif. Agr. Expt. 
Sta. Bui. 707, 47 pp. 

(10) Morgan, W. L. 

1935. The tomato mite ( Phyllocoptes lycopersici Tryon). 
Agr. Gaz. N. S. Wales 46(12): 683-684. Abs. in 
Rev. Appl. Ent. 24(4): 211. 1936. 

(11) Tuft, T. O., and Anderson, L. D. 

1953. Acaracides for control of tomato russet mite in California, 
Jour. Econ. Ent. 46(3): 502-504. 

(12) Wilcox, J., and Elmore, J. C. 

1943. The control of the tomato fruitworm, the tomato pinworm, 
the tomato russet mite, and hornworms. U. S. Bur. 
Ent. and Plant Quar. E-589, 7 pp. 

(13) , and Howland, A. F, 

1946. Results of field experiments with DDT against insects 

affecting tomatoes in southern California. U„S. Bur. 
Ent. and Plant Quar, E-699, 8 pp. 

(14) , and Howland, A. F. 

1950. Tests of new insecticides for control of tomato insects in 
southern California. Jour. Econ. Ent. 43(6): 883-887. 

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